I have never been more confused about my relationship to speaking. I don’t mean public speaking, I mean just speaking at all. And right when I think I can identify the state of being that makes me unable to speak I realize the opposite has the same effect.
As a very sensitive person I often need the world around me to be safe, quiet and dependable. When that gets threatened I can regress into an almost pre-verbal state. From this place I have a kind of fear of disintegration. The words I have from this place, at best, form complaints: barely grown-up versions of a baby’s cry. I have learned that “venting” from this place has limited benefits. And at a physical level it feels almost physically painful (in my chest and stomach) to speak. I struggle to grasp complex processes and concepts when I’m here. I can empathize on a basic level to things like: sad, mad, glad, etc. (It’s interesting to see from this place how I am still half useful at my job precisely because it forces me out of my intellect and keeps me out of my clients’ intellects.)
But even when I have created peace and safety for myself, when I feel the warm glow of love for myself and the world…well that too makes me prefer silence. Here it does not hurt to speak so much as that it is an inherently quiet place. Here my words threaten to ruin the peace. Funnily enough this place feels almost post-verbal. Like I have temporarily transcended words and entered a kind of subtly euphoric and spiritual state. I have a warm glow in the way a flower or tree does. I can listen and understand well (almost limitless input) but have very little verbal output. The output I have here is in my eyes and my presence. I enjoy being here very much though but it is a difficult thing to explain to others.
And then there are the “regular” days when I’m neither especially scared nor especially happy. From there I can speak but I find most of what I have to say boring. I truly bore myself with my own words and frequently stop myself mid-sentence.
Even when I remove all of my self-judgment from what I’m saying here, one of the things that all of these states share in common is that they all make it hard to function in the social world. Yesterday I was accused of doing something at my office for a second time (a small thing), and though I was innocent on both occasions I watched with a slight resentment as the other blathered on. I didn’t defend myself or apologize. I was neither kind nor mean. I just watched it happen as though it were happening to someone on another planet. I remember asking myself, “Do I care what this person thinks of me?” And in that moment that honest answer was that I didn’t. I just wanted to be left alone so I responded with the answer that would get me left alone, “Yes. I won’t use that anymore.” Satisfied, she walked away and I felt relieved that the interaction was short.
On a dating platform a person asked me what I was up to last night. In this instance I could tell they weren’t fishing for a spontaneous date, they really were just asking. I couldn’t answer their question. I suppose I should have said, “I’m curling up in bed with a movie after a long day. What are you up to?” But even typing that here I feel a small amount of self-hatred. So those basic things…normal things that allow people to get to know one another, are things I can’t generally get myself to do. I have abandoned dozens and dozens of online dating conversations because it felt too overwhelming to answer a basic question. It’s not the exception, it’s the rule.
Yesterday as I sat in my office I fantasized about being left alone all day to stare out the window quietly. I wanted to sleepily stare out the window at the trees and just watch the birds. I wanted it so bad that it hurt. I felt an actual broken heart at the idea that what my heart yearned for was at odds with what I needed to do to survive.
Probably somewhere deep inside is a desire to get some basic needs met. Needs which I am so practiced at not getting met that I forget they exist. A desire for touch, understanding, loving gazes, etc. But even as I write this they sound like abstract concepts or like fleeting lies.
The best way to sum it up is that, I’m in a lonely place and it’s painful to be this lonely. But the idea of connection sounds even more painful somehow. Or if not painful then at least very confusing. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to function and yet I do. Client after client. Errand after errand. Bill after bill. Task after task. I push through the way that a sickly old predator still has to go through with the hunt: sheer survival instinct. I am running out of money and need more clients but I can barely work with the clients I have.
Eventually the predator lies down in the warm sun and stops hunting knowing that it has nothing left. I wait for that day/month/year as well.